Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps

John Marine | 4/05/2011 03:53:00 PM | |
(UPDATED: January 5, 2012)

Spa-Francorchamps is one of the world's greatest race tracks as well as one of my personal favorite tracks. It is one of the few remaining original Formula 1 tracks. This Belgian course has tested the likes of many a race car driver and motorcycle rider with its various elevation changes and challenging corners. Spa-Francorchamps has been raced on since 1924. Today's Spa-Francorchamps is the longest circuit Formula 1 races on all-year long at over 4.352 miles (7.004 km) in length. In its past, Spa-Francorchamps' length was more than double its current length with the original circuit being 9.31 miles (14.9 km) in length. This configuration existed between 1924 and 1939. For the better part of between 1946 and 1979, Spa-Francorchamps was 8.761 miles (14.1 km) in length. Today's Spa-Francorchamps has stood since 1979. This course challenges race car drivers and motorcycle racers alike. It is home to racing action ranging from F1 Grands Prix to the grueling Spa 24 Hours. The Le Mans Series even races for 1000 kilometers around Spa-Francorchamps. It was also home to the 24 Heures de Liège moto, which was a 24-hour motorcycle racing endurance run between 1971 through 2003. An old joke about Spa-Francorchamps is that if you ask, "what's the chances of rain?," the answer is "yes." Rain even plays a factor at Spa-Francorchamps (almost like any other F1 race).

This blog post is all about this wonderful Belgian race track.

--- Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps ---

I feel bad when people say that this track is very popular. Almost as if it's great, but not great enough to be legendary. Even if this track isn't as long as the Nürburgring 24 Hour course, it still doesn't mean even today's Spa-Francorchamps still isn't as fun to race now as it used to be with the previous two layouts. It is still one track you just don't mess with or take lightly. This track is for hardened and adept racers, not Sunday drivers or any small-time racers. This, then, is today's Spa-Francorchamps:

^ from: www.allf1.info - Spa-Francorchamps' current configuration has been around since 1979.

I was first introduced to this track from the Nintendo 64 game, "F-1 World Grand Prix." I would later see this track in various other games including the very first GTR, Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli, and ToCA Race Driver 3 among many others. The track features two different starting points. Most tracks go down the true front stretch while F1 starts after the Bus Stop chicane. As you look around the track, you become enamored with the beauty of the Belgian countryside. This is a true and total Grand Prix racing facility. There are enough corners (20 in all) that will have you on edge all around. Only the truly adept can master this fantastic racing facility. A handful of elevation changes will really test you and prepare you for an intense racing challenge. Maybe one of the most infamous incidents around Spa-Francorchamps was in the 1998 F1 Belgian Grand Prix when a lot of cars wrecked heading into Eau Rouge on a wet track.

Because this is such a proper Grand Prix race track, its level of challenge is immense. Eau Rouge just flies right by. Eau Rouge is almost like the first corner at Silverstone or Tertre Rouge at Le Mans. You gain so much speed through the Kemmel Straight that it's easy to overshoot the first of the Les Combes corners. In games, I've often found myself off the road trying to recover. The rest of the course just challenges you and your patience like a charm between the final Les Combes corner through Turn 16 (after Stavelot). The only minor annoyance with the backstretch is that you have to let off the throttle just a little bit at Turn 18 since it's a sharp kink. Slow ALL THE WAY DOWN, however, heading into the chicane. A lap is complete if running the F1 course. Otherwise, La Source is just as slow as the chicane section. The road after La Source completes a lap around the other Start/Finish line.

Lap Times.

The lap record is as accurate as the date of this initial blog post. The current lap record around Spa-Francorchamps is 1:47.263 by Sebastian Vettel in 2009 for Red Bull Racing. GT cars and prototypes could easily lap this course in two minutes. I will try to find you more qualifying times in future edits. This is just to give you a further idea of lap times around this circuit.

Video Lap.

This video gives you an idea of what this track is like (video uploaded in September 2007):

No doubt, you have to be really on your game when you think about a track like this. Consider yourself a racing king/queen if you can win here.

To learn more about this track, please visit www.spa-francorchamps.be. You can also contribute more information about this track by going to Spa-Francorchamps' Trackpedia page. Thank you for reading!

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